Church loses faith in interview process

FAITH schools such as the London Oratory, where the Prime Minister sent his two eldest sons, could soon be barred from interviewing prospective pupils and their parents.

Anglican and Roman Catholic church leaders complained that the practice left them open to charges of social selection and have told ministers their schools do not need to interview to gauge religious commitment. They claim that only a handful of schools, including the Oratory, a Catholic secondary, interview parents.

But Dr Anne West of the London School of Economics, who has studied admissions policies of hundreds of schools, estimates that one in 10 church schools uses interviews.

The proposed change could spark a major row with those schools, which include St Marylebone, a successful Church of England girls' school in London.

"I am absolutely against banning interviews," said head Elizabeth Phillips. Her school interviews every applicant, with their parents, to test religious commitment.

"We want to find out if they know anything about religion. We hope they have a greater aim in life than materialism," said Mrs Phillips.

Ministers want to use consultation on a new code of practice on school admissions to review the practice. The code states that over-subscribed faith schools can interview to ascertain a pupil's religious commitment.

Canon John Hall, general secretary of the Church of England Board of Education, said: "Everyone knows the criticisms, that interviews can be used for subtle social questioning. We do not think interviews are used that way, but we also do not think they are necessary, so let us get rid of them."

Both churches believe references from a minister or priest could help schools assess a pupil's enthusiasm for a faith. Canon Slade school, an Anglican comprehensive in Bolton, relies on a form completed by clergy to certify church attendance. The Rev Peter Shepherd, head, said: "It is difficult to make interviews objective."

School admissions, 17

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you